The popularity of bahn mi, the Vietnamese sandwich, peaked in 2009. That year it seemed the ‘it’ thing to do among foodies was to try every new sandwich shop that popped up offering their take on not just bahn mi but its relatives from other Southeast Asian countries. Just like any fad, however, the bahn mi craze has since died down. That is, with the exception of a couple of stand outs such as Num Pang.
Deriving its name from the Cambodian word for ‘sandwich’ Num Pang started in the East Village back in March 2009. It easily became a popular fuel station for students and residents alike and even among the likes of celebrities such as Oliver Platt. 2 years later it opened a 2nd location in Midtown much to the delight of the office lunch crowd. At Num Pang each sandwich comprises of an individual sized freshly toasted semolina flour baguette from Parisi bakery, lightly smeared with homemade chilli mayo and stuffed with a rotating selection of seasonal and local ingredients, and topped with pickled carrots, cucumber, and cilantro. The ingredients themselves may be more American than Cambodian but it’s the spices and flavors like coriander and fish sauce in which they are marinated in or seasoned with and that ever present cilantro that gives the sandwiches a distinctly Asian flavor.
On each location there is a weekly special and the menu is not entirely the same for both shops. Among the classic sandwiches, the Duroc pulled pork with spiced honey is succulent and satisfyingly meaty and the grilled skirt steak with coriander and peppercorn is tender and filling. The coconut tiger shrimp also does not disappoint with its shrimp-bread ratio and it’s highly recommended for those wanting a non-meat option. From the seasonal specials the five-spiced glazed pork belly is a top contender. The meat is indulgently fatty and the pickled Asian pear gives the sandwich a balanced flavor. For those close to their Midtown location check out the grilled Khmer sausage sandwich and the boneless spare ribs sandwich. Aside from the sandwiches there are also a handful of soups and salads on the menu and if you’re up to it then try some of their pickles. Wash it all down with their blood orange lemonade or the fresh watermelon juice. Sandwiches are $7-$9 and at their East Village store only cash is accepted.
21 E. 12th Street
(b/t 5th and University Pl.)
40 E. 41st Street
(b/t Lexington & 3rd Ave)